Whisper Island, Ireland
The dead dude sprawled across my desk, face-down on a stack of unpaid bills. As a former cop, I was no stranger to the sight of death, but this crime scene took macabre to a new low. The hole at the back of the man’s head indicated his departure from this world wasn’t natural. Blood-spatter on the wall provided a backdrop to this horrific tableau. My dog added the final, grotesque touch. Bran was so intent on licking blood off the corpse’s hand that he failed to greet me with his customary bark-lick-pee frenzy.
Beside me, Theresa Crawley, the hatchet-faced proprietor of a lousy fish-and-chip joint, emitted a low keen.
I took a step forward and sniffed the air. “Nice try, Lenny, but the smell of the raspberry sauce is a dead giveaway—pun intended.”
Taking this as his cue, my assistant leaped up from the desk, revealing a pockmarked face, liberally decorated with boils. He beamed at us. “Isn’t my makeup awesome?”
My would-be client’s wail turned into a blood-curdling scream.
“Don’t worry, Theresa. It’s just my assistant fooling around.”
My reassurances had zero effect. With her gaze still fixed on Lenny, the pro-fish-fryer staggered back, groped for the door handle, and stumbled out of Movie Reel Investigations.
“Thanks, man.” I glared at my assistant. “We can kiss goodbye to this month’s rent.”
His mouth drooped. “Sorry, Maggie. I didn’t know you’d have company. I’ll go after her and apologize.”
“Resembling an extra in a horror B-movie? Heck, no. That’s what scared her off in the first place.”
Mentally cursing Lenny’s newfound passion for special effects makeup, I raced for the door and bounded onto the landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs, Theresa was halfway down. I didn’t hold out much hope of persuading her to hire us after Lenny’s shenanigans, but I might prevent her from trashing our reputation all over Whisper Island.
I took the steps two at a time. “Theresa, please wait. Lenny didn’t mean—”
At the sound of my voice, the woman whipped around, lost her footing, and stumbled. On instinct, I reached down and grabbed her arm.
“Get off me,” Theresa screeched, still in fight-or-flight mode. “You’re both insane.”
She yanked her arm free with such force that I pitched forward, barreled into her, and sent us both hurtling down the stairs.
We rolled into the Movie Theater Café and crash-landed against a table. The impact sent a jolt of pain through my wrist. My skirt ruched up, and tableware went flying. As the person on the top of our ungainly heap, I took the brunt of the falling debris. A hot substance sloshed over my head, burning my scalp. It smelled suspiciously like leek and potato soup, my least favorite flavor. Fabulous.
In case Theresa’s caterwauling upstairs hadn’t already alarmed the café patrons, our unorthodox entrance put an end to their peaceful lunchtime chatter. A horrified silence gripped the room, punctuated by screeching from the people seated at the Clark Gable-themed table.
As I drained soup from my ears, an excited child’s voice rose above the din. “Is Maggie wearing Vera Venom knickers?”
“I think so,” a second child replied, this one with a distinct English accent and a voice I recognized. “I’ll take a closer look.”
I closed my eyes and groaned. Knowing my fondness for a popular preteen superhero cartoon series, Liam, my boyfriend, had given me the underpants as a joke gift. I’d only worn them today out of desperation.
“Hannah Patricia Reynolds, stay right where you are. You’re covered in carbonara sauce.” The woman’s crisp tones, as English as her daughter’s, identified her immediately.
Jeez, Louise. Couldn’t I catch a break? Why did the week I got behind with my laundry have to be the moment I exposed my underpants to the world? And, of all the tables I could have knocked over, why did it have to be the table occupied by Liam’s ex-wife?
From Some Like It Shot by Zara Keane, Copyright 2020